Wednesday, January 20, 2010.
Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports.com has contributed his share of Boise State skepticism over the past few years. No doubt it would have continued had the Broncos lost to TCU in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. But they didn’t. And Dodd has changed his tune as he joins the crowd giving BSU an early ranking of No. 2 for the 2010 season. “Can we all agree that Boise is able to play with, and beat, anyone in a one-game bowl situation?” writes Dodd. “No more of this, ‘If they played in the SEC ...’ They don't, so it's a moot argument. Chris Petersen loses only one starter. One! If the Broncos can get past Virginia Tech they should go undefeated and play for the national championship. Why they're (No. 2)? The critics are running out of excuses. Boise had the best winning percentage of the 2000s. It isn't slowing down soon. The next step is to play for a title.”
Did you like this from Sunday Sports Extra the other night? It’s unbelievable. As Boise State sets the table for a season that sees all but two starters returning from 2009, here’s an overview of the numbers coming back on offense. The Broncos are losing exactly zero rushing yards and rushing touchdowns off last year’s squad. That means 2,606 yards and 30 TDs are returning on the ground. In the air, well, Richie Brockel had 75 receiving yards and two touchdown catches last season. That leaves 3,623 yards and 38 TDs among the returning pass-catchers.
Let’s lay more groundwork for the NFL Draft. Idaho’s Mike Iupati seems ticketed for the first round. Some think Boise State’s Kyle Wilson and Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews have a shot. Who would the other first-round candidate from the WAC be? Two-time all-conference defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith of Louisiana Tech. Says War Room scout Russ Lande in the Sporting News: “Smith is a good prospect who can be dominant at times and has the versatility to play end or tackle. He’s an average run defender but quite disruptive as a pass rusher. Smith weighs more than 300 pounds but moves like he is about 250. Gives outstanding effort and is a tough player. Smith will be a good fit as a 4-3 tackle and should be drafted in the bottom of Round 1.”
You can look at Nevada’s basketball record and think it’s very un-Wolf Pack. Going into tonight’s game in Taco Bell Arena, the Pack is only 11-7 and just 3-2 in the WAC under new coach David Carter. But none of that matters against a team in a boat like Boise State. The Broncos are trying to stay afloat amidst their worst start to a conference season in school history—0-6 in the WAC. Things only get more difficult for BSU’s struggling senior leader, Anthony Thomas. He has to face Nevada’s star guard, Armon Johnson, who’s averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists versus Thomas in four head-to-head matchups. And Johnson’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Wolf Pack also brings in 6-9 sophomore Luke Babbitt, the preseason pick for WAC Player of the Year, who Carter calls “one of the best players in the country.”
Improving Boise State’s sagging fortunes at the gate will be a tough task tonight. The Broncos are averaging only 2,634 fans a game, the lowest figure in 28 years. Typically an upper-echelon WAC team like Nevada would boost that number, but tonight’s game is the second half of a doubleheader, following the BSU’s women’s game against San Jose State. These twin bills may be necessities to maximize staff efficiency and energy savings, and tonight’s promotion helps—if you buy a five-dollar ticket by halftime of the women’s game, you can stay for the men’s nightcap. But 8:15 tipoffs on school nights for men’s games are a tough sell. They take kids out of the stands when the program needs any body it can find.
The Idaho Stampede finally have a win with their reconfigured lineup, and it came in a see-saw affair last night at Utah. It was Coby Karl’s night. The Boise State product notched his second straight 36-point game, making big buckets all night long for the Stamps, none bigger than a fadeaway jumper with four seconds left that knotted the game at 100-all. That came several seconds after he calmly canned a technical free throw, negating the need for a three on the final Stampede possession. Then in overtime, fellow former Bronco Roberto Bergersen drilled a game-clinching three-pointer, his only basket of the night, to send the Stampede to a 116-108 victory.
One thing we’ve never been able to do before is talk about former Boise State golfers in the FedEx Cup standings. But after their Top 25 showings at the Sony Open in Hawaii, Troy Merritt is 37th on the list and Graham DeLaet 45th. To put their first PGA Tour event in perspective, both Merritt and DeLaet have made more money in one week than Nampa’s Tyler Aldridge did in all of 2009 on the tour. Merritt and DeLaet begin play today in the Bob Hope Classic, the only regularly scheduled 90-hole stroke play event on the PGA Tour.
Tonight’s ECHL All-Star Game in Ontario, CA, features the Idaho Steelheads’ Derek Laxdal as head coach of the National Conference, and on the surface it looks like he’s with the underdogs. There are 12 teams in the American Conference and only eight in the National. Will the fact the American Conference has a larger pool from which to choose its All-Stars make a difference? Well, tune in to KTIK for the game. The Steelheads will be represented by four rookie standouts tonight: goaltender Richard Bachman, defenseman Brendan Milnamow, and forwards Evan Barlow and John Swanson.
The U.S. Olympic cross country ski team was unveiled yesterday, and it gave us a fourth athlete with Idaho ties headed to Vancouver next month. Morgan Arritola, a 23-year-old from Ketchum, qualified through points scored on the USSA National Ranking List. There are only eight competitors on the squad for the 2010 Winter Games—the small number is due to a new Olympic quota system.
This Day In Sports…January 20, 2007:
Over 25,000 fans crowd the streets of downtown Boise and jam around the Capitol for Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl Celebration Parade and Statehouse Salute. The loudest chant was a “Pete-Pete-Pete” reserved for coach Chris Petersen as the Broncos lined the steps behind him. A roar almost as large went up when Fiesta Bowl offensive MVP Jared Zabransky stepped to the podium. Zabransky soaked up the adulation a little over a year after hearing some boos while accepting the MPC Computers Bowl MVP trophy.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 1350 KTIK/The Ticket. He also handles color commentary on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football.)